Recently I had an interesting conversation with a non-foodie about our nation’s obsession with food. My conversation partner explained to me that he had no interest in food as an indulgence and instead very much saw food as fuel. I’ve met a few people recently that don’t share my passion for food and it’s got me thinking about why I love eating food, talking about food and writing about food so much – is it pure hedonism? Am I just bloody greedy? Maybe I’ve got an addiction.
Food Brings People Together
There are so many ways in which this is true. We catch up with friends over food – whether that’s updating each other on our lives over a long lunch or inviting the girls over for some home cooked food and a bottle of wine. Beautiful romances start with first dates over dinner, families celebrate birthdays, graduations and anniversaries in their favourite restaurants, whole communities come together to celebrate their heritage over traditional foods at carnivals and festivals. In almost all cultures around the world, sharing a meal is a common theme in how we socialise with others and cooking for someone is a way of showing love and appreciation.
We love to share our foodie finds with others, recommending restaurants we’ve discovered to both friends and strangers. Who’s ever eaten at a restaurant and thought “my mum/dad/partner/bestie would love this place, I must bring them here next time they’re in town”? I know that when I’ve dined alone and tried something utterly delicious I’ve wished that I was sharing the experience with a loved one. And is anyone else’s phone full of pictures of either food you’ve snapped to send to someone, or food that someone else has sent to you? The vast number of food-centric Instagram accounts are a shining example of how much we love to share what we’re eating with others.
Sometimes we make new friends over food. Supper clubs, cooking classes and food tours (Leeds Food Tours obviously being the best one – incase you’re new to this blog that’s my food tour company) are great opportunities to meet new people in your home town or whilst travelling. Even better if you’re travelling alone and want to connect with likeminded people whilst on the other side of the world. In some parts of the world locals take great pride in inviting visitors into their homes for a traditionally cooked meal.
Food Immerses You in a Culture
When we visit a new country, we want to learn about that destination, it’s history and it’s culture. We can do this by visiting museums, historical sites, places of worship and famous landmarks, but we can also do this via our tastebuds. We can learn so much about the history and traditions of a place, and how this has shaped today’s culture through food. Important events such as wars as natural disasters often shape what a community eats and how they prepare food, and food educates us on how different cultures and countries have influenced each other throughout history. Finding out why a certain food is traditionally eaten in a country is almost as fun as actually eating the food!
It’s not just history though. We love finding out how the locals live, and a popular way to do this is to discover where they dine. When we travel, most of us don’t want to eat at the big chains that we can experience at home – we search out those off-the-beaten-track eateries that only the locals know about. I particularly enjoy places that take traditional foods and bring them up to date with a modern twist, using newer cooking techniques. They still use local ingredients, perhaps from nearby farms, but they reflect the ways in which cooking and eating have changed.
Food Tells a Story
Food doesn’t just tell you the story of a country’s history or how and why that particular food was invented. It tells stories of families, for example when recipes have been passed through generations or farms have been part of the same family for many years. Maybe a vineyard now grows it’s grapes organically because a previous family member’s health was affected by pesticides. Maybe a father taught a son how to fish and now he makes a living from this.
Food can also tell the story of a community. For example market places are often the centre of a community, where people not only shop for food and support local traders but also meet up to eat, drink or just chat. People who live alone and sometimes feel isolated may use their food shopping as a reason to get out of the house and socialise, and when markets have places to sit and enjoy a meal it’s even better! Markets are full of people with fascinating stories, and food is of course at the heart of this.
Food Makes Us Feel Better
There’s no denying that many us have an emotional connection with food. There have been times when I’ve wished that I just viewed food as fuel – maybe I’d be healthier or skinnier – but this definitely isn’t how I feel now. I have no shame in admitting that eating makes me feel happy, whether I’m trying something new and have just discovered the most amazing flavour or whether I’m indulging in a chocolate bar on my sofa because I’ve had a bad day. After all, we’ve all heard that chocolate releases endorphins and I’ve just read that the Theobromine and Phenylethylamine in cocoa are thought to affect levels of serotonin, boosting mood and easing depression!
Often foods make us feel good because they’re associated with a memory. Maybe your mum always cooked a delicious beef stew, and tasting that food reminds you how much you love her. Maybe you had your honeymoon in Thailand and now whenever you taste good Thai food you’re instantly transported back to that time. The first thing that my boyfriend, Billy, ever cooked for me was roast leg of lamb (it was Valentine’s Day shortly after we met and to this day he still insists he didn’t know it was Valentine’s Day and that it was just a coincidence). Whenever I have roast lamb I always feel happy!
Oh and how many of us get hangry? I’m not a nice person to be around when I haven’t eaten… feed me and I’m instantly my nice, positive self again!
Food Can Be An Expression of Creativity
I’m not the most advanced cook in the world but I love getting creative in the kitchen! It’s a great feeling when you put together a bit of a random meal from ingredients in the cupboard and it actually works. Even more so, I love going out for food when someone else has gotten creative in the kitchen. Whether it’s a fancy tasting menu, a modern twist on a well know dish, the new craze of vegan junk food or just a beautifully presented plate of classic cuisine, it’s all good in my eyes.
In the same way that we appreciate music, poetry or visual art, I honestly believe that food should be appreciated in the same way – it can be just as much of an expression of creativity. The bonus is that we get to enjoy eating it, share it with others and feel happy. Experimenting with different flavours, textures and cooking methods can take some skill, but is also accessible to almost anyone!
A Final Note
Before I finish this post I just want to acknowledge that we’re not all going to love food in this way. Food can cause a great deal of anxiety for some people (I’ve certainly experienced this in the past and I’m always here if you’re struggling and want to talk), and some people are hugely limited in what they can eat due to physical health issues. Sometimes food is just a necessity to live, or a way of fuelling an active career or life. Absolutely no judgement here at all, we all have different passions, interests and ways of experiencing the world!
But I wanted to share why food is so important to me, and that it’s more than just really liking eating, which of course I do. If you’re a food lover please do share why you love it – is it the taste? The memories? The education?
If you love food as much as I do, you might enjoy these posts:
- How to Spend 24 Hours in Ljubljana if You Love Food & Drink
- 30 Foods to Try in Istanbul
- Pizza Making With Leeds Cookery School and Why They Can’t Be Topped
- 5 Reasons to Love Leeds Kirkgate Market